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Meet Balogun, a Steamfunk and Steampunk Nerd

Interview by Terra Olsen

What are you nerdy for?

I am a total nerd for Steampunk, Steamfunk and Sword and Soul, which is African-inspired Epic and Heroic Fantasy.

I think a lot of people are familiar with Steampunk, but not necessarily Steamfunk. Can you please elaborate on what Steamfunk is and how they differ?

Sure. Steamfunk is a philosophy or style of writing – or way of being – that combines the African and / or African American culture and approach to life with that of the Steampunk philosophy and / or Steampunk fiction.

Steamfunk differs from Steampunk in that Steamfunk does not glorify colonialism and does not gloss over the horrors of the Age of Steam. While Steamfunk stories are still fun reads, we deal with issues and characters that go untouched in Steampunk. In Steampunk, Tesla’s story is told often, however, we never read about George Washington Carver. No panels are done on his brilliant works at the Cons; no one cosplays him. Steamfunk addresses this deficit through creative works – and through cosplay – that tells the untold stories of our heroes of color.

Furthermore, Steamfunk is not limited to a set time period or setting. We have Steamfunk stories set in ancient Africa and in 1970s USA.

Balogun steamfunk

How did you discover Steampunk/Steamfunk?

I have been into what is now called Steampunk since I was a three or four years old, sitting at the feet of my mother and enjoying episodes of The Wild, Wild West television series. When I wrote Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman, my homage to The Wild, Wild West and to Harriet Tubman, my idol I still had not heard of Steampunk until I sent the manuscript to my publisher and she wrote me back to tell me they would love to publish “such a great Steampunk story.” “Steampunk?” I said, scratching my head. I immediately looked it up on the internet. Upon finding a good definition, I turned to my wife and said “I finally have a name for what I have been doing all my life.”

After coming to the realization that I was telling stories that had previously gone untouched in Steampunk – stories that no one except a few would ever dare tell – I started calling what I write Steamfunk. Other authors of color decided to adopt the term, too and the Steamfunk Movement – a movement within the broader Steampunk community – was born.

Ogunlana with Flintlock

Ogunlana with Flintlock

How did these movements spark the nerd in you?

The nerd in me has been sparked since I read my first comic book at two years of age. However, I have discovered that I really enjoy Steampunk and Steamfunk cosplay. My Steamfunk persona is a warchief of the Oyo Empire of what is now called Nigeria. He used his iroke – a device that generates sonic waves and sonoluminescence (the conversion of sound into light / heat) to bring down an invading British airship fleet and now wears the trappings of the British, along with his traditional garb, as a warning to any others who would dare invade his homeland.

How has Steampunk and Steamfunk impacted your life, and how do you incorporate them into your life?

The Steamfunk Movement and the Steampunk Community has allowed me to meet some incredible people with whom I have formed lasting friendships and working relationships. It is through Steamfunk and Steampunk that the Steamfunk! anthology – a magnificent work by fourteen diverse authors of the highest order – came into fruition.

I attend fan conventions with my family and we enjoy creating costumes and personas together. I also create, develop and produce Steamfunk events. Our latest one was The Mahogany Masquerade: An evening of Steamfunk and Film, which was wildly successful and is now an annual event.

steamfunk balogun

Favorite moment or memory involving Steampunk and Steamfunk? My favorite moment came recently, with the debut of the Steamfunk! at AnachroCon 2013. The reception and support for the anthology was great and everyone at AnachroCon was happy to see all of that funky goodness packed into one funktastic book!

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Balogun is the author of the bestselling Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within and screenwriter/producer/director of the films, A Single Link and Rite of Passage: Initiation. He is one of the leading authorities on Steamfunk – a philosophy or style of writing that combines the African and/or African American culture and approach to life with that of the steampunk philosophy and / or steampunk fiction – and writes about it, the craft of writing, Sword & Soul and Steampunk in general, at Chronicles of Harriet.
He is author of three novels – the Steamfunk bestseller, MOSES: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 & 2); the science fiction gangster saga, Redeemer; and the Sword & Soul epic, Once Upon A Time In Afrika and contributing co-editor of two anthologies: Ki: Khanga: The Anthology and Steamfunk. He is also co-creator of the soon-to-be-released role-playing game, Ki-Khanga™: The Sword & Soul RPG.
Balogun can be found on Facebook at  and on Twitter.

Do you know a self-proclaimed nerd we should interview? If so, please contact Terra at terra@haveyounerd.com and tell us about them.

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5 thoughts on “Nerd Guy of the Month

  1. Great interview!

    I always felt awkward and squeamish about Steampunk’s total avoidance of colonial sins. It’s awesome to be able to add some awesome alternatives to my reading list! :D

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